Blood Will Tell

What it was like to win the Oregon Book Award

I’ve been up for the Oregon Book Award three times. The first was in 2004, for an adult novel called Learning to Fly. I didn’t win, but I was sitting next to Heather Frederick, who won the Leslie Bradshaw Young Adult award for the The Voyage of Patience Goodspeed, and I got to hear the little gasp you make when you win.

In 2011, Girl, Stolen was up for the Leslie Bradshaw, but I had a lot more on my mind that night. I had been asked to speak about another finalist for the same award: my friend Lisa Wolfson, who had written a wonderful book called Flash Burnout under the pseudonym L.K. Madigan. Six weeks earlier, she had died after a brutal and short fight with pancreatic cancer. I sat in the green room and hoped I could do Lisa justice. I spoke about her, and then took my place in the audience. In one pocket, I had an acceptance speech for me, and in other one for her, because her husband had asked that I accept the award on her behalf if she won.

They announce the winners by reading the first paragraph of the winning book. I was so wrought up that when they started reading the first paragraph of Emily Whitman’s Wildwing, I actually thought for a few seconds that it could be either my or Lisa’s book.

This year, the Body in the Woods made the sort list. When I thought about the four finalists for the award, I was sure that any of them had a better chance than I did. My book seemed too commercial. An hour before we left, I typed up a few words, printed them out and taped them on a 3X5 card. To be honest, I worried far more about the dress I was wearing. It had been designed by a friend on a fit model that took me a pair of Spanx and a pair of Spanx pantyhose to approximate. The days where I wear makeup, Spanx, and heels are very few.

We sat in the audience next to a dapper older man. I asked him what he was there for and he said, “I’m getting the lifetime achievement award. In other words, I’m old.” I told him it was better than getting an in memoriam award. I asked his name, and realized I was sitting next to the legendary writer and writing coach Tom Spanbauer, who has fostered so many other writers through his critique group and workshops.

The Leslie Bradshaw Award was one of the first announced. And when I heard the word “Alexis” – my main character – I jumped to my feet right away, instead of waiting decorously for the passage to be read to the end. Afterward, I was offered champagne in the green room and congratulated in whispers next to a sign warning that voices carried.

It was a magical night, made even more so when Tom, from the stage, asked his partner to marry him.
Tags:
Congratulations!
Did you announce this via FB or elsewhere? I had NO clue about this - congratulations to you! Very well-deserved.

Wow - perhaps I do need to stay on LJ after all....
Re: Congratulations!
I put the photo of my husband and me on FB. I am not on here as much as I used to be in 2006, that's for sure.
Since we were sitting next to him, we got to watch the reaction up close. There was a pause - quite nerve-wracking! - but I think he might have just been surprised. But then he did say yes.